Some of Microsoft's greatest battles aren't being fought in the open, contentious field of constant public opinion and media coverage. If there's one thing Microsoft has always done better than the competition, it's blowing open new areas of opportunity and running with the ball on the sly. Apple and Samsung can keep their tactical flags limited to consumer electronics; Microsoft has far greater potential as a rising star in the cloud arena. The war started with its drive to push email to the cloud with Office 365, and the next leg of battle sits in the helm of Windows Azure and XaaS dominance.
If you're under the impression that we are not yet in the era of massive, prevalent 'big data', you're wildly mistaken. Our data needs are already climbing to astronomical levels, with IBM stating that 90 percent of the data in existence today was created in just the last two years. Not surprisingly, much of these growing data needs are being tossed into virtual environments whether it be on-premise in a VMWare or Hyper-V driven route, or my personal favorite: cloud-hosted virtual machines.
Microsoft is on an update streak with Windows Azure, introducing significant new features at a steady pace. For the past couple of months we have witnessed an overwhelming number of changes meant to improve the company's cloud platform, including the Iaas (Infrastructure as a Service) support announced two weeks ago.
Microsoft's latest move in this never-ending chess game with its rivals is the Windows Azure SDK (Software Development Kit) 2.0 for .NET which now features improvements for websites, cloud services, storage, service bus and PowerShell automation. Let's take a look at what's new.
Microsoft has announced the general availability of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) support for Windows Azure. The software giant also unveiled a couple of new features for IaaS meant to beef up the company's cloud platform. Timing is interesting --Amazon's AWS (Amazon Web Services) Summit kicks off in New York tomorrow.
Windows Azure's IaaS support introduces the Virtual Machine and Virtual Network features, and "is now live in production, backed by an enterprise SLA, supported by Microsoft Support, and is ready to use for production apps", according to Microsoft's Scott Guthrie.
Microsoft knows something about cool codenames, but little on how to name actual products. Whistler, Longhorn, Cougar, Blackcomb, Vienna and even Blue all sound great, resounding and promising, but that impression goes away fast when Microsoft baptizes its creations: XP, Vista or 7. The guy with the cool names went on a bathroom break, and all the boring suits took over.
That's the very same impression I get after reading about Microsoft's "Looking Back and Springing Ahead" blog post, which touts a number of apparently impressive achievements and future plans that the company has. Lo and behold, there's even a strategy in place to raise the pace for "updates and innovations" -- that's the "new normal across Microsoft", according to the company. But then I notice the Windows Blue reference.
Microsoft's ongoing process to improve the company's cloud platform, Windows Azure, has reached a new phase. The software giant has, yet again, introduced a number of new features for Windows Azure, including the HDInsight service for Hadoop clusters, support for Dropbox deployment and Mercurial repositories, as well as enhancements to Mobile Services.
On Tuesday, Microsoft detailed another update addressed to Windows Azure, the software giant's cloud platform, aimed at fending off the attack from Amazon S3, Google Cloud Platform and other major competitors. One of the most noteworthy new features is support for developing native Android Apps in Windows Azure Mobile Services.
Microsoft has released the Android Client SDK (Software Development Kit) through GitHub, under the Apache 2.0 license. Windows Azure Mobile Services also features support for Android push notifications, which can be enabled by registering for Google Cloud Messaging, getting the API key and pasting it in the corresponding "Push" tab.
Just last week Microsoft began rolling out the Azure service in 25 new markets around the world, but the updates have continued today as Microsoft continues to move forward in its competition with services like Amazon S3, Google Cloud Platform and others. Today the company's Azure Director, Alex Simons, announces updates to the identity and access management capabilities in Windows Azure.
The service gains three new features -- the ability to manage users and their access rights in the Windows Azure Portal; preview of the new phone based two factor authentication for users who are Global Administrators in Windows Azure AD; and the ability to manage the synchronization and federation between your Windows Azure Active Directory and Windows Server Active Directory from within the Windows Azure Portal.
On Wednesday, Microsoft announced a new update for Windows Azure, the company's cloud platform. Windows Azure Store now comes with expanded availability within 25 new locations across all major regions. This brings the tally up to 36 markets, a significant increase over the previous 11 from little over two months ago when the software giant announced a similar update.
The Windows Azure Store is designed to allow users to discover, purchase and manage services and data straight from the cloud platform's management portal. The feature was previously only available in Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Spain, United Kingdom and United States.
Microsoft's cloud service, Windows Azure, along with Team Foundation Service, suffered a major outage yesterday that also affected non-enterprise people, as it resulted in problems with Xbox Live as well. However, according to the Xbox Status page, the Live system, along with Xbox Music and Video, which were also affected, is back up and running.
Now, as of this morning we have some information on the root cause of the much-publicized problem. Brian Harry, Product Unit Manager for Team Foundation Server, blames the nine-hour outage on "an expired SSL certificate in Windows Azure storage". Harry goes on to explain that the company stores "source code files, Git repos, work item attachments and more" there and that "the expired certificate prevented access to any of this information, making much of the TFService functionality unavailable".
Microsoft Open Technologies unveiled the VM Depot public preview early last month, and the software giant has just announced that its community-driven open-source virtual machine image catalog is now integrated into the company's cloud platform, Windows Azure.
The new feature is available through the Windows Azure management portal and is designed to ease the handling of virtual machine images from VM Depot. The cloud platform's users can take advantage of open-source stacks, "based on supported Linux distributions, made available by members of the community and directly provision the files as personal images straight from the Windows Azure portal".
Late this afternoon, Microsoft answered a question oft-asked by investors this month: What's up with Windows 8? The new operating system, which launched October 26, was supposed to lift sagging PC sales and demonstrate the capability to successfully compete with so-called post-PC platforms like Android and iOS. Now we know more. Windows & Windows Live revenue passed Business, making the OS division most-valuable again.
For fiscal second quarter, ended December 31, Microsoft revenue was $21.46 billion, up 3 percent year over year. Operating income: $7.77 billion, a 3 percent decrease. Net income was $6.38 billion, or 76 cents a share.
Microsoft's efforts to improve the company's cloud platform, Windows Azure, most definitely do not fly under the radar. Over the past few months the software giant brought Windows Azure Services to Windows Server 2012, introduced a plethora of new features for its cloud platform, updated the Windows Azure SDK for .NET and, on Tuesday, announced the general availability of Windows Azure Media Services.
Windows Azure Media Services is basically a Media Platform as a Service or PaaS, as Microsoft likes to call it, that allows users to implement video streaming, using various formats, to Android, HTML5, iPad, iPhone, Xbox, Windows 8 or Windows Phone, among other supported clients. Developers can control Windows Azure Media Services through REST APIs or Java SDK and .NET SDK in order to build an automated media workflow which can upload, encode and stream video.
On Tuesday, even with all the CES 2013 madness, Microsoft introduced a host of new features addressed to the company's Windows Azure SDK for .NET. The latest version of the software development kit focuses on expanding support in roles, increasing productivity, making new tools available and delivering new and updated libraries.
The revised Windows Azure SDK for .NET allows users to run cloud service applications in Windows Server 2012, and provides access to more features in IIS 8 (Internet Information Services) and .NET 4.5 when the server operating system is selected. The updated software development kit also introduces support for Visual Studio tools, delivering improved tooling for Cache and Server Explorer for Storage and Service Bus, diminished context switching to portal as well as support for up to 25 management certificates per subscription.
On Friday, Microsoft unveiled a host of new features for the company's cloud platform, Windows Azure. The latest update beefs up the software corporation's offering by expanding the availability of Windows Azure Store into more regions as well as adding support for Mobile Services in Northern Europe.
Microsoft states that the company also plans to extend support for Mobile Services to "all Windows Azure regions world-wide", but did not provide any specific details as to when that will happen. The Redmond, Wash.-based corporation touts a number of other changes in the last Windows Azure update to Mobile Services, Web Sites, Media Services, SQL databases, Virtual Network improvements as well as Subscription Filtering support.
During a session at BUILD 2012 on Wednesday, Microsoft announced some new enhancements to its Azure platform that bring it onto the playing field with its latest operating system releases - Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8.
In short, Azure will be expanding to include support for Windows Phone 8 as well as Windows 8. Satya Nadella, President of Microsoft's server and business tools, stressed the importance of bringing all of these platforms together. It will make life much simpler for developers who want to build apps that work across platforms and are cloud friendly.